As an early stage investor, I spend hours of time conducting due diligence on a company before making the decision to invest. Of course, that diligence involves digging into much of what you might see in a pitch deck, such as the company's market opportunity, competitive landscape, milestones achieved, team, marketing strategy, and financial projections. Additionally, I review the company's footprint on the internet, i.e. their website, app (if applicable), and social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, PInterest, LinkedIn, YouTube).
But, if you think that an investor or strategic partner like me is only researching your company, you're mistaken. Reviewing the publicly available information on a company only tells me part of the story. I'm researching you too. Just as you are researching investors to determine potential fit, we are researching you.
The company is the entrepreneur in the early stages
Because so much of the success of a company in the early stages is dependent on the founder, I am also very interested in learning what I can about you, the entrepreneur behind it all. It is often this information that determines whether I invest or not. In fact, the length of your fundraise could be negatively impacted if a potential investor sees something they don't like. Your personal social media and online comments to customers are often more revealing than the glossy pitch deck you've submitted for review, so be aware of your personal online presence so that you don't put your company's success in jeopardy.
Your personal social media
Believe it or not, I look through your personal feeds (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and I'm looking for red flags. If you're posting something nasty or your content is overly controversial, I'm staying away. For example, I once conducted due diligence on an entrepreneur before going on CNBC's PowerPitch. I found the entrepreneur's comments about his ex-wife to be especially inappropriate given that he had young children. Needless to say, when asked whether I was IN or OUT on the company, I was OUT.
Mutual connections in our networks
If you're posting offensive content online, potential investors like myself see it as a bad sign as to what it might be like to do business with you. Startups are hard, and relationships can get strained at times. When times get tough, you want to know you're working alongside someone with whom you can have a mature and measured conversation, even in a worst case scenario. For this reason, I also check LinkedIn for mutual connections and reach out to anyone we know in common to get feedback. I want to know if contacts we share sing your praises or tell me confidentially not to get involved.
Your online comments to customers
I also search various sites on the internet to see how you might have personally responded to customers. For example, if a customer logged a complaint about your company on the Better Business Bureau, I want to know how you (or your team) responded. If you launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, I want to see how you or your team replied to customer feedback or shipping delays. I also read the customer reviews on Amazon (if applicable), and I'll ask you about any negative comments in person to see how you respond.
When diligencing an investment opportunity in the early stages, the entrepreneur is the company. Your work ethic, integrity, and people skills become the basis of the company culture. While reviewing a pitch deck and conducting company analysis are key, so is understanding first and foremost who is driving the business.
You and your team are just as important (if not more) than the financial projections, market analysis, and competitive survey you submit for review. If you haven't already looked into your personal presence on the internet, now is the time. By knowing what investors are looking for and making sure you're putting your best personal impression out there, hopefully you'll remove any roadblocks to creating relationships and be better positioned for success.